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'ON YOUR A-GAME'

Tobias Rieder focused on making an impact when the puck drops against Jets

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / Calgaryflames.com

That final, 40-ft. dash had the feel of an icy ascent at the Wetterstein. 

The summit was close, but the air was thinning.

His legs, drained, and crumbling beneath.

"It was a looooong skate," Tobias Rieder laughed of his 3-0 goal in Friday's red-white scrimmage. "Late third, end of a shift. 

"My team had only two lines and two extra forwards, AND I spent about that half the third period on the PK because of how the game went."

Of course, that was no excuse not to pounce on a loose puck and scramble off on a breakaway.

Feel the burn! 

Impossibly so, the winger dug deep in the airways and found that patented, pull-away speed. He stopped hard in the paint, covered the 'tender in a frosty fog, and buried with a beautiful move on the forehand. 

"Definitely good to get the confidence going," Rieder said. "But, yeah. Tiring. 

"I could barely skate back to the bench."

Worth it, of course. 

It was a fitting way to finish up camp after 13 days on the ice, crashing and banging with teammates inside the Scotiabank Saddledome. 

Rieder was one of the camp standouts, earning his way with a diligent effort throughout the past two weeks and turning heads in the process. 

"He's really detailed," said assistant coach Ryan Huska, who oversees the Flames' eighth-ranked, 82.1% penalty-kill. "We asked our players to come in and really be on top of their details early on so we could put ourselves in a position to be ready to play - not only against the Oilers, but on Saturday against the Jets. 

"Tobi's been one of the guys that every day has been organized, he's been prepared, and he's practiced the right way. 

"Every day.

"When you have players doing that, as a coach, you feel like he's going to set himself up for some success up in Edmonton."

 

Video: Brendan Parker breaks down the final day at Camp

 

Rieder, who worked on a line with Zac Rinaldo and Mark Jankowski for the majority of camp, had four goals and 10 points during the regular season. 

But it was his work on the PK this year that garnered the most praise, having been on the ice for only eight powerplay goals in more than 88 minutes of ice time, while scoring a pair of short-handed points in that span. 

Speed kills and Rieder has plenty of it to burn, presenting the Flames with a specialized offensive threat when down a man.

Just like he was on Friday. 

The Flames do have a number of elite killers on staff - Mikael Backlund and Derek Ryan, to name a few up front - but in a short series like the one coming up against Winnipeg, a one-goal swing could make all the difference. 

They'll need all hands on deck. 

"It's a role I really enjoy," Rieder said. "We know how important it's going to be for us to get off to a quick start. You can't afford not to. We know that during the season, discipline is key. Penalties are going to happen, obviously, but if you come out on the right side of the special teams battle, you usually come out on top.

"That's definitely an area I take a lot of pride in and feel I can make a big impact."

Rieder is no stranger to the get-up-and-go tournament format, despite the uniqueness of this once-in-a-lifetime, Stanley Cup flavour. 

In 2016, he represented Germany on Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey. Back then, there was no dipping the toe in, either. He had four-and-a-half months off before dropping the puck on some of the greatest and most intense hockey ever played. 

That experience has already come in handy for him so far as he builds towards Game 1 against Winnipeg. 

"There's nothing to save it for," Rieder said. "You've got to be on your A-Game as soon as it all starts. 

"This is a bit different, as I didn't get my usual amount of off-season skating in, but I've put in some good work over the past few weeks and I know what to expect."

Except for one critical detail. 

"The packing," he laughed. "I've got to tidy up the apartment and do some laundry. We don't know how long we're going to be gone - hopefully a while - so I have to pack smart."

"I'll be at it all night."

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